50 Years Ago: Labour’s New Race Law

Attacks on wages and the trade unions, defence of profits and unemployment, bringing back health charges and now, again, a colour bar law. Thus, one by one, Labour abandons its old principles, partly under pressure from capitalism, but partly also from a desire to stay in office. While economics has been responsible for the failure of Labour’s futile attempts to make capitalism work in the interests of all, politics is behind this, their second, capitulation to colour prejudice. For, as they themselves pointed out in 1962, if anything economics demands free immigration: there is a relative labour shortage in Britain which could delay expansion. (….)

On February 22 Home Secretary Callaghan announced Labour’s Bill to stop the Kenya Asians. These unfortunate people were holders of British passports so the Bill had to provide for the extension of the immigration colour bar from Commonwealth to British citizens. (….)

Extending the colour bar to British citizens abroad needed careful drafting to avoid keeping out “white” as well as “coloured” people. In the end Labour found a solution that only those whose father or father’s father were born in Britain would from now on have free entry into Britain. One lawyer, writing in New Society (29 February) commented:

“Each lawyer will recognise the finger print of the formula that has been evolved: it is designed to draw a racial distinction by finding a dividing line which approximates to the racial division yet is capable of expression in words which make no specific reference to race.”

The Socialist Party, basing its principles on the fact that workers the world over have a common interest, is opposed to all racialism and to all nationalism. We are opposed to all legislation to prevent the free movement of workers, whether in search of jobs or fleeing from oppression. We denounce the Labour Party’s new race law as a shameful sell-out to colour prejudice. Let them never dare speak of the brotherhood of man again!

(Socialist Standard, April 1968)

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